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The War on Game Pirates and StarForce

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October 2, 2005 2:45:39 AM

Well, I just read "The War on Game Pirates" article published today

http://www.tomshardware.com/column/20051001/index.html

And I must say although I may not have the support of a court system or the means to take them to court, I do although totally agree with TomsHardware on this issue. I too help run a large community site called PlanetAMD64 on the net with a community base of nearly 40,000 computer enthusiasts and gamers. I have also posted a thread to rally support against Starforce and have started a Starforce Petition!

I must admit, I too have had several near disasters with Starforce games but the final straw came when I and many, many users and friends of mine upgraded to Windows XP x64, something Microsoft and my community requires of us. Although the Operating System was a gift given to our staff and myself by the lead project manager for x64, I had purchased this game like all my games. I am a big fan of the Tom Clancy games and especially the Splinter Cell series, but when I was greeted with a error window that stated I was using the wrong Operating System I was shocked and to say the least "more" than irate. Its been a long time since I was this furiated at something. Probably nothing better than Windows XP x64 for gaming at this moment, and to top it off like many others, I had tested the demo before purchase to make sure it would work on my platform and it worked flawlessly. What use is a demo if the retail refuses to work but the demo works perfectly? There is no excuse for this outrage, none, nada, zip. I have put in many attempts to talk to Starforce but instead of working with us and showing us a little concern and care for the people who pay their salery, they instead delete our threads and insult us in their email replies. Thankfully, I have the email of the president and CEO of Starforce and when enough sign the petition I will be happily forwarding it on to him.

I ask, no I urge and plead with you, DO NOT purchase Starforce protected games, I repeat stay away from them at all cost. Until their practices are more legitimate and helpfull and non-criminal like I suggest doing your research before hand and purchasing only games that do not use Starforce protection.

All we ask from Starforce is to give us honest people a work around, something that will let older Starforce games run legitimately on ANY Microsoft OS including their superior 64-bit platforms. Preferably, something that wont cause our systems to crash and burn. Starforce's efforts are nothing more than a criminal-virus-like devious method that hurts the legitimate consumer and at the same time gives the pirates and code hackers a reason to cure their miserable boredom.

http://www.planetamd64.com/index.php?showtopic=8978&vie...

Please, I welcome any and all comments you have on Piracy and better protection methods to stop it.

Sincerely,
Rodney W. Gray
Editor / Admin
PlanetAMD64.com
October 2, 2005 3:18:18 AM

I have no direct experience with that game but if the demo works then I'm sure there is a way to get the full version to work. You're savvy. There is no way to get around it? I have yet to see a protection that couldn't be hacked. One as invasive as starforce must have the entire warez community on its heels.

<font color=red><b>Long live Dhanity and the minions scouring the depths of Wingdingium!
October 2, 2005 3:50:10 AM

I also run a site dedicated to the new 64 bit technology www.64bitstuff.com. My site may be smaller than Planetamd64.com, We have had the same concerns for over a year now. I have faced these problems in the past with the creators of Starforce. Being ignored, posts deleted. I knew this was going to be a problem, I'm just glad Skorpn has taken it much further than me.

The only response Ive gotten from Starforce is that its the game developer's fault. They only purchased a 32 bit copy protection. And they refuse to respond to me anymore.

No game with the current starforce will work on a 64 bit machine running XP-64. Whats alarming now is that Vista is on the horizon, it will install as a 64 bit machine, add that to the fact that almost all CPU's are 64 bit. What does this mean? If I get Vista, I will not be able to play Silent Hunter 3 without looking for a no cd crack.

I would advise any gaming companies that may wind up reading this post, Take very serious consideration into dealing with copy protection of this nature.
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October 2, 2005 4:16:42 AM

Thanks for your continued support Augie... Every little bit helps.

Anyone else?
October 2, 2005 4:26:21 AM

Nice post SkOrPn. :) 

dhlucke, StarForce 3.5 has not been cracked yet, as the crackers have been working on it since the launch of Splintercell: Chaos Theory which was a long time ago now. I'm sure they gave up after a couple months of trying, therefore making SF 3.5 the first uncrackable protection. Thankfully not too many games use it.

augie64, nice support huh? hehe

The gaming companies are going to have to come up with something to work with newer OS's. x64 and Vista are on the horizon of mainstream and I don't know what they are going to do about StarForce. StarForce will probably release x64 and Vista drivers when those operating systems come closer to mainstream, but what makes me wonder is the 32-bit SF drivers ARE integrated right into the discs. All I predict is more problems and hassle with SF games that are only 32-bit. If people are having problems playing those 32-bit protection games on WinXP 32, imagine how friendly the drivers will be when they try to install a 32-bit SF game on a 64-bit OS. I predict hell.

The legitimate consumers really do suffer the most out of all of this. The sooner the game devs realise this the better, especially with the facts of SF being spread, more and more people are revolting against SF every day. Splintercell: Chaos Theory was lucky because a very small percentage of people even knew what StarForce was, therefore not knowing about it and buying it. Anyone recall the SC:CT support forum outraging? People were pissed.
October 2, 2005 3:25:14 PM

Problem with StarForce is the huge variety of games now using it, and other systems like them. And most of my experiences (and problems) have been on 32 bit versions of Windows, and the problems there alone are massive.
October 3, 2005 11:24:16 AM

Quote:

I have put in many attempts to talk to Starforce but instead of working with us and showing us a little concern and care for the people who pay their salery, they instead delete our threads and insult us in their email replies. Thankfully, I have the email of the president and CEO of Starforce and when enough sign the petition I will be happily forwarding it on to him.


This doesn't seem a very business like attitude from Starforce. I doubt whether a petition will do any good, if what you've written here in the quote is actually the (whole) truth.

It's better to contact publishers that use Starforce directly with this information. I am sure these publishers want you as a customer so they should know about what Starforce is doing to their market(s). Good luck, and let us know here how you're progressing on this.


BigMac

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October 4, 2005 3:33:29 PM

lol i'll never buy another game with starforce on it, its just annoying and i know quite a few others who wont either. it pisses me off when nero, alcohol, and daemon tools just shut down and even my main DVD drive is still having problems from it. Its cool tho, i hope they go out of business.

-I'm sorry, but the UN must be firm with you. Let me in, or else.
-Or else what?
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October 6, 2005 2:25:16 AM

I bought a game with starforce and my DVD drive would not let me Install because of this. I had to go out and buy another (inexpensive one) just to install....Starforce is the worse thing to happen to games!
October 7, 2005 12:36:34 PM

Finally took the trouble of reading the article itself (which does not cover the (non) x64 support at all).

Quote:

In an interview with Firing Squad, the makers of StarForce strenuously denied the fact that their driver causes problems to all but a slim minority of user systems. They then went on to state that the EULA covers them and the publishers from all liability of damage done by their copy protection. In other words, "we state that it doesn't cause problems, but if it does, we're covered by the EULA and you're not."


Well, I guess now it's really time to read the EULA and follow up on that. Can I see on the packaging whether a game is protected using StarForce? This is not the way to do business or respect your customers. Under such conditions I will not buy games that carry the StarForce protection, or any other copy protection measures that can mess with my system and get away with it without consequences by putting all risks on the shoulders of the customer.

I find this far more offensive than the issue whether they support 64bit OS at the moment or not.


BigMac

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October 18, 2005 4:31:38 AM

I installed Bet On Soldier which came free with the motherboard/CPU combo I purchased. I did not know it was protected with StarForce until after I installed it.

Every time I tried to play it either the game would crash, my system would bluescreen or it would just restart, even after applying the latest updates.

I gave up trying to play the game but my system kept locking up for no apparent reason.

Luckily I use TrueImage to do a full backup prior to installing software. Now that I restored my system is 100% stable again.

If I wasn't so paranoid it would probably take me 10 hours to recover from installing a f****** video game.

I don't know what Starforce did to my system and I don't care, I definately won't be buying any game that uses starforce.
October 18, 2005 6:02:32 AM

Interesting,

I had a similar experience (game freezing up) with the free demo of Bet on Soldier that I downloaded. I only had trouble with the game itself though, when I deinstalled I had no more problems. I wonder if the demo contained StarForce. Btw, really a crap game Bet on Soldier.

Recently I downloaded the Cold War demo, and as I was going through the process of installing the demo, just before I hit the final go, I read that the demo would also install StarForce. WTF? StarForce with a free demo? I remembered this topic, and didn't install. At least when you buy a game, it should be clear what you're buying and whether you want that on your system, but what on earth is the purpose of StarForce with a demo that is free to download? I assume it's to do with trying to hamper reverse engineering of demo code but installing crappy drivers as part of a free demo, that's just not done! Is there a list somewhere which lists all games (and demos) that use StarForce, or should we start one?


BigMac

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October 18, 2005 10:21:55 AM

It would have to be a rather extensive list. For note, I see things from certain publishers and I know off the top of my head that they'll have StarForce (or similar) onboard and it's time to crack out to imaging software.
January 23, 2006 12:11:04 AM

Another little "Gotcha" with these virus like protection schemes is that they do not generally state on the packaging of the game, what kind of protection is being used. Or the fact that it may not work if you have ever installed CD emulators or if you don't have the right brand DVD/CD player etc. Many Stores will not allow you to take it back.

There are a few lists out there of games that use this protection Scheme. I need to look at them more closely.

I just wish the Game Reviewers would list, in the review, what Scheme is being used. Then I would know, (no matter how good the game, I won't buy it if it uses Starforce).

Keep up the battle skorpn.
Sluggo
January 23, 2006 8:28:07 AM

Quote:

I just wish the Game Reviewers would list, in the review, what Scheme is being used.

I agree totally... it would be a great aid to many readers, and raise awareness generally.
January 24, 2006 4:45:55 PM

hmm interesting ive not heard of StarForce but im not a big fan of the Tom Clancy games either, this bugs me cause when i do buy game(not very often mind you) i hate the fact i have to find the CD to play the game, when i could just get the game for free, and have none i repeat NONE of the issues the legal buyer does, and then the companies wonder why people pirate there games. :roll:

i wont be buying any games with this protection, well not intentionally like stated the games dont tell you what there installing before you buy them.
January 25, 2006 7:51:28 AM

Starforce isn't THAT common but saying that I hear lots of people complain about it but I have never had a problem with it.
February 12, 2006 6:57:09 AM

SF is sneaky, the problems are difficult to see sometimes, and since SF uses undocumented code to "hack" into Windows, it certainly hasn't passed WHQL.

Through more than a month of proding, a cousin of mine convinced me to get Splinter Cell 3. It wasn't really my style of game, but at least we could play together.

Now I like to multitask, Alt-Tab out of games to check the web or email, then jump right back in. These are "friendly" games. I found out right away that SplinterCell3 was "Hostile." First the reboot on install, hmmm. Then when I launched the game, and the system slowed down. The system was very sluggish while the disk check was in process. After the opening movie, it froze. No alt-tab, no ctrl-sft-esc, ctrl-alt-del, nothing but a mouse that could move around, but do nothing. Had to hit the hard reset button. This process repeated 3 times until I figured out not only that my firewall was blocking intenet access for it to check for updates(I kinda knew that right away), but also how to allow it. I knew from the main menu screen of the game that another app wanted focus, as the cursor changed when I went to the bottom right corner. That is where the firewwall popups are. I hit "A" and it finally started to work. I cannot multitask with this game, and I have had serious issues with lag on a LAN.

So then why is this "hostile" I asked myself, and so here I am. I may not have had a CD burner die, yet XfingersX, but I have a computer for a reason. If all I did was game, I may as well have a console, right?

It's true that most of these issues impact legit gamers more than the pirates, but as long as SC3 remains UN-cracked, it will be a poster child for StarForce and every developer will flock to it. They'll just refine the driver to minimize problems. If they were up front about it, and genuinely worked to improve the driver for us, then I'd be alright with it. But these guys seem like Russian Mafia.

Not buying the affected titles is all I can do, that, and posting here and maybe emailing support. But could THG document these problems when you review these games and then post an article compiling those. I appreciate Aaron's articles, but I think they need some teeth (in documented facts) to do any good.
February 12, 2006 10:23:38 AM

Don't lay the burden on journalists. What we need is an international gamer's association, which will stand up for the rights of the gaming consumer and give the makers of StarForce their day in court (somewhere on the globe, preferably the US).

Maybe we should even stretch that some more to cover music, movies and software in general as well (and books when these finally enter the digital arena on a large scale). We need an international consumer association that will stand up for the digital consumer rights. The current consumer associations around the world are simply not picking it up fast enough, AND they're inadequate as they are organized on national levels, and we need something of the scale of the internet.
February 21, 2006 8:09:35 PM

Quote:
I just wish the Game Reviewers would list, in the review, what Scheme is being used. Then I would know, (no matter how good the game, I won't buy it if it uses Starforce).


I wish they would too, but I won't hold my breath waiting. A long time ago, I had a discussion about C-Net and how I liked their reviews. He told me "they like whoever pays them." The more I thought about it, the more I imagined that might be true. I've tried games that absolutely blow, yet some reviews said they were amazing. I've experienced the reverse more times than I can count. I'm wondering if money talks and

I think they would have problems if they notified anyone reading the review that the game used StarForce copy protection. I now challenge reviewers to prove me wrong!
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